No summer camp? No problem. Maybe there aren't many summer camp options in your area for your child's age group, or perhaps your kiddo isn't ready to be away all day. Why not set up a DIY summer camp at home? You can involve your children's friends or the neighborhood kids, or just hold a DIY summer camp at home for your own little one(s). It will help children maintain a routine, stay fresh for school next season, enhance their creativity and get active.
1. Start out with a relaxed, self-directed activity. As you hunker down to start a day of camp, let kids get comfortable with a self-directed activity. Lay coloring sheets, playdough or stamps out on the kitchen table with plenty of paper for kids to begin exploring and prepare for the day.
2. Follow with group time. When it's time to officially begin, plan a routine that you'll follow every day. Perhaps this involves sitting in a circle on the floor and singing a welcome song, talking about the weather and providing a guideline for how the day's schedule will be set up.
3. Make a uniform. Even if you're holding summer camp with only your kids, a uniform can help them get in the game. Use puffy paints, fabric markers or tie dye to color unique camp shirts, or decorate bandanas or floppy sun hats to wear during camp.
4. Go outside. Even if it's hot outside, summer camp isn't complete without some outdoor activities. Incorporating water is the best way to stay cool. Turn on the hose or play with ice. Have the kids make mud pies. Drill holes into various lengths of PVC pipe. Have the kids connect them, and attach the hose once they've settled on a design. If you're watching other parents' kids, stay away from kiddie pools. They can pose a drowning risk. Stick to hoses and sprinklers.
One important reminder: Don't go outside without applying sunscreen first. If you're watching other children, make sure parents provide you with SPF lotion. Explain that you'll be applying it about 20 minutes before you go outdoors, within 20 minutes of being exposed to the sun and about every 2 hours thereafter (or after getting wet in the sprinkler and toweling off).
5. Plant a garden. Planting a small garden is a great way to teach responsibility, dedication, consistency, patience and reward.
6. Plan science activities. Kids love to get messy. Search for age-appropriate science experiments on Pinterest that you can do with kids.
7. Play games. Board games reinforce learning and teamwork. This is a great way to spend an hour if it's stormy outside.
8. Read. Reading books is a wonderful way to keep learning alive throughout the summer. Have a story time, or ask older kids to read aloud. Create a summer book bucket list and provide rewards (like stickers or popsicles) when the kids have reached their reading goals.
9. Take a field trip. Chances are there's a farm, aquarium or museum that you can visit with the campers. Be a tourist in your own hometown by taking the kids on a field trip or two.
10. Organize a scavenger hunt. Kids love mystery and adventure. Arrange an indoor or outdoor scavenger hunt for them. You can make this themed to go along with educational activities that you're working on each day.
11. Do open-ended art. Many kids don't have a chance to get creative during the school year. Put out plenty of arts and crafts supplies, and let kids put them together as they wish. Put out inexpensive items like colored paper, tin foil, cardboard, small pieces of wood, glue, pom poms, scissors, tape, paper clips, straws, bottle caps, tissue paper and yarn and watch kids get creative.
12. Teach new skills. Do you have a friend who is an artist? Is your spouse a musician? Bring in guests to teach the kids different skills.
Although it can be exciting to plan a DIY summer camp at home, don't get ahead of yourself. Try it out for a few days or a week. If all goes well, you can extend your DIY summer camp as long as you'd like.